For a team that seems to be living well above its payroll means, the Cincinnati Reds are going to have to rely upon developing their own starting pitchers — like Tony Cingrani — to keep the team competitive.
The Reds have the 11th highest payroll this year according to Baseball Prospectus. While the Reds are currently approaching the business side of baseball like a mid-market team under the ownership of Robert Castellini, the reality is that the Reds’ market is among the smallest of the small.
The Reds won’t hit the financial wall until after the 2015 season when the core of their rotation — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake — will all be eligible for free agency. Current fill-in starter Alfredo Simon will also be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. The Reds do have Homer Bailey signed long-term with a six-year, $105 million deal, but Bailey’s inconsistencies do not make him a sure thing to eventually become the ace of a reduced staff or even a front of the rotation starter.
That’s all the more reason why Cingrani has to develop into the face of the Reds’ future rotation with the hope that young pitchers developing behind him — Michael Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson — will follow his lead.
Cingrani has left his mark as an exceptional starting pitcher in this his second season as a starter for the Reds by setting an unusual record for most consecutive starts to begin a career in which he surrendered five or fewer hits per start. That streak was snapped last month at 22 games (a full 10 games more than the next best mark since 1914).
After the streak was snapped, Cingrani hit the disabled list with a sore shoulder. He just returned from the disabled list for a Sunday afternoon matchup with veteran Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies. While Cingrani struggled early to shake off the rust by giving up back-to-back home runs to start, he settled down into the Cingrani that Reds fans have become accustomed to watching and surrendered just two more runs over six innings while fanning seven.
A healthy and improving Cingrani will go along way to help the Reds not only get back into contention this year but also bolster what should be the best rotation in baseball in 2015. After that, it may be Cingrani who anchors the Reds’ staff as the ace.